We are living through one of the most fascinating, most unnerving, most trans-formative periods the world has seen since at least WWII. To be honest I would rather be reading about it in history books rather than watching it unfold. I would like to skip to the end of this book or even wait for the movie. I would bet my bottom dollar that I am not the only one thinking these type of thoughts.
I can only imagine how the people living through the triple upset – WWI, the Spanish flu pandemic and the deep economic recession that followed on the heels of these two disasters – must have felt. For those folks, however, it was five tumultuous years that forever transformed the world. The current crisis that is still unfolding has changed the world in less than four months and nothing will ever be the same when we return to normal, whatever that may look like.
Since launching Jim Hinckley’s America my life has revolved around tourism (telling people where to go) and bringing history to life. This storm will pass but until then tourism is as extinct as the woolly mammoth. And after the storm passes, what will tourism be like? With this thought in mind I have been working to develop a short term and long term strategy for me as well as for some of my clients such as the City of Cuba. And I have also been working on developing as well as expanding current programs in a manner that provides maximum entertainment and inspirational value for fans, that gives sponsors and advertising partners the best return on their investment, and that provides support for the Route 66 community.
First there is 5 Minutes With Jim, our weekly audio podcast that is made available every Sunday morning. We keep it simple and fun with a blending of history, trivia and travel tips. As an example on our first program for April, I tell the story of an amazing Old West shootout in Holbrook, Arizona, and give directions to the historic homestead associated with the incident. Previous programs told the story of the Cactus Derby, a race that featured the best racers of the day including Louis Chevrolet and Barney Oldfield. There have also been programs about my favorite places for pie on Route 66 (Grand Canyon Caverns and Victoria’s Sugar Shack to name two), infamous and overlooked murders, and automotive history.
On the crowdfunding site using the Patreon platform I have been sharing my autobiography in serial format as exclusive content. In light of the current Coronavirus induced economic situation this funding source is more important than ever as I am suspending fees charged to some advertising sponsors. I will continue to keep their name in front of people but if they are closed it just doesn’t seem right to be charging them. I have also discounted advertising packages by 50%, and am offering free listing for businesses with online stores across all platforms in the Jim Hinckley’s America network. And so to keep things going, to be able to support the Route 66 community and small businesses that are its life blood I am more dependent than ever on crowdfunding.
As so may people are in self quarantine and restricted on travel, I am providing short live stream programs on our Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page. This are being shot from various locations around Kingman, Arizona during my walkabouts. As I always say, shared adventures are the best adventures. A hearty thank you to the City of Cuba for their support of this project.
One project that I am quite excited about is the new Coffee With Jim program that is live streamed to our Facebook page on Saturday mornings from the offices of Jim Hinckley’s America. As book and movie reviews are a part of the weekly format, this will provide authors with a promotional platform. The fast paced half hour program features things like excerpts from the 1901 travel journal of Alexander Winton, travel related news and updates, product reviews and much, more. So, it also serves as a promotional platform for small businesses as well as communities that submit items for review or coupons. After the broadcast the video is added to our YouTube and Vimeo channels.
A 1914 guide to roads and highways in Arizona
I have also dramatically adjusted the format of the weekly newsletter that is published every Friday morning. This is offered free with registration through our Facebook page. It too features reviews, travel tips and news, and information on communities, events and new products.
The website is getting some much needed improvements as well. Much of the information will need to be upgraded or modified resultant of current travel restrictions and the economic climate.
Bottom line. Like everyone else in the world right now I am sailing into uncharted waters through an impenetrable fog. And like everyone else I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Still, the show must go on. And so I will continue using Jim Hinckley’s America as my platform for telling people where to go.
“The gap between the breaker points is set at .015 to 0.18 in. The gap should occasionally be checked to see that the points are properly adjusted. If the points are burnt or pitted, they should be dressed down with an oil stone. DO NOT USE A FILE.” This is from a 1930 Ford repair manual. This is the world that I am most familiar with (ma said that I was born ninety and never aged).
As I work on the schedule and travel arrangements for the upcoming fall tour it is almost impossible to avoid reflecting on how much this has changed in recent years. The owner of a new 1930 Ford would have groused about the folding of a map. My pa did the same thing in 1960. So did I on my first solo cross country trip in 1976. It was a family tradition. It was a right of passage. Now I complain about setting up the Garmin, a devise that is already an antiquated relic in the age of smart phones and apps.
Motel reservations were something that the rich and famous did. The rest of us drove until we were tired and a neon lit sign that served as a lighthouse lured us from the road. Often we would drive along a strip of motels in search of a room, and on occasion we simply slept in the car along the highway. Imagine doing that today!
If we had a car with a radio, we would count the miles by the fading stations that were replaced by ones that had a stronger signal. As air conditioning was a luxury savored in a theater, at the occasional motel, or in a diner, summer desert travel was done at night. Did you know that many motels in the desert country offered special day rates as many people were on the road after dark?
“Needles, California, Saturday July 17, 1915 – Started west at 6:15 P.M. in procession of eight cars – a Jeffery, two Fords, two Chalmers, two Stutz, and a Cadillac. Thirty miles out Chalmers broke a spring. Roads in desert were fair. Stopped for midnight lunch. Played phonograph, fixed a tire, Stopped at Ludlow for gas, had to wake up the Desert Queen to get it. Arrived in Barstow at 7:00 P.M., sunrise very fine.” Journal of Edsel Ford. Paved roads across the desert like US 66 made the travel a bit easier but this was til the way we traveled in the 1960’s.
This faded relic along Route 66 in the Ozark Mountains hearkens to an earlier time.
I, for one, can’t say that I really miss the “good old days.” Still, especially after a frustrating week spent working on the website, with moderate success, the audio podcast, setting up the shop on the Facebook page to sell books, including my latest, Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, I am eager to get on the road. And to be honest, I would n’t mind doing the trip in a 1930 Ford. After all, today I would have the option of visiting the past, not having to live in it. Jim Hinckley’s America strives to keep history alive and relevant, but we also want the modern traveler to enjoy the adventure.
Can you recommend a top “end of summer” drive? What is the best guide to use for traveling Route 66? What is the quirkiest roadside attraction that you have visited? Do you have a favorite Route 66 town? What is the oddest restaurant that you have experienced? Do you have a favorite book store? Can I rent a classic car to drive Route 66? Every week I receive dozens of inquiries about Route 66 travel as well as questions about travel guides, tour companies, motels, road trips, museums, restaurants, and, once, even a question about nudist colonies along Route 66. Followers and fans take our slogan “Telling People Where To Go Since 1990” to heart.
I respond to each and every question though on occasion my response is a bit delayed. To expedite things a bit, on occasion I will answer questions with a blog post. This has the added benefit of providing travel planning assistance to a wider audience. Today I decided to address questions on a different platform, the weekly live stream Adventurers Club program on the Jim Hinckley’s America Facebook page that is then added to the YouTube channel. I started by asking fans to submit questions before and during the program. When launching a new endeavor or program I am as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. But as is often the case, my worries were unwarranted. In fact the program was so well received the decision was made to make it a regular part of the Adventurers Club schedule. As promised on today’s program, here are the questions asked (plus a few others) with the answers provided as well as website links or contact information.
Jay Leno and my dearest friend at Auto Books – Aero Books during a book signing.
Frank, Rice Lake, Wisconsin, “Do you have a favorite book store?” Yes, I do. Auto Books-Aero Books on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, California. It has moved a couple of times but it has been on this street since 1953. The little store is a true gem; new books, used books, vintage books, magazines new and old, and so much more. Here is a bit of tip, plan your visit for Saturday morning. The store hosts a very informal cruise in that transforms the very limited parking area, and on occasion for a block or two on Magnolia Boulevard, into a veritable automotive museum. As a bonus, there are often celebrity sightings. Please be respectful!
Gregg, Batavia, New York, “What is the oddest restaurant you discovered while on the road?”Many years ago my dearest friend and I were driving north up the west coast. We were near Coos Bay, Oregon and were intrigued by this obviously ancient little diner with a sign that read, “Mr. Critter’s Pizza.” It was quite different. It was a custom pizza joint where you could order your pie with elk or kangaroo or alligator.
Ed, Niles, Michigan, “Is there an app or guide to Route 66 that you can recommend.” Hands down the best guide book to Route 66 is the Ez 66 Guide for Travelers by Jerry McClanahan. I still travel with this guide. Now, if you are looking for an app there are two reputable ones on the market, the Route 66 Ultimate Guide and Route 66 Navigation. They both receive good reviews and both are reputable products. Still, for my money I would go with Route 66 Navigation. The developer personally tests the product several times per year and is quick to make upgrades that enhance the Route 66 experience as well as adjust for road closures and similar problems.
Gretchen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, “What is your favorite quirky attraction?” The World’s Largest Hand Dug Well in Greensburg, Kansas on U.S. 54. There is a personal reason for this selection that I will share in a future post. Suffice to say it is a surprisingly fascinating stop, and quite odd in that a major shrine has been built around the well.
Rhonda, American Fork, Utah, “Can you recommend a great end of summer drive?”Yes, but hurry. You will want to make this trip during the brief window between mosquito season and snow season. It is the Lake Superior Circle Tour through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, across northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, and through Ontario, Canada. This an overlooked adventure that I highly recommend as it blends everything; a sense of wilderness, natural beauty, charming small towns, National Parks, small city’s with a diverse array of superb restaurants, ghost towns, and a relaxing drive.
The amazing Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico
Gregg, Sand Springs, Oklahoma, “What is your favorite Route 66 Town?”That is a damn tough question. In all honesty I can’t narrow it down to one. The best I can do is narrow it down to three; Pontiac, Illinois, Cuba, Missouri, and with the slightest of detours (less than ten miles) Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Okay, I have to ask, what are your thoughts? Is this a feature you would like included in the schedule? Do you have travel planning questions?
If you are a fan of cast iron bathtubs with the white porcelain finish thank David Dunbar Buick. Does cruise control enhance your driving experience on long road trips? If so you might want to thank Ralph Teetor, the prolific blind inventor. After all, it was an idea that he patented in 1950. Ransom E. Olds is best known for the Oldsmobile, and to classic car enthusiasts, the man behind the REO cars and trucks. Did you know that he was also the inventor of the gasoline powered lawn mower? Did you know that Louis Chevrolet’s first business endeavor was the manufacturing of bicycles?
As has become a custom this past few years, I have been preparing some presentations for the fall tour along Route 66 as well as for the winter. Each has been designed as an educational program with a bit of fun tossed into the mix. Louis Chevrolet, David Buick and Ralph Teetor are but a few of the fascinating people I introduce in Dawn of A New Era, a fast bit of time travel back to the dawning of the 20th century and the American auto industry. It was developed for a Hackett Auto Museum fund raiser in Jackson, Michigan. However, I now scheduling other appearances.
Community education has become a passion in recent years. I enjoy providing the tools needed for communities or grass roots initiatives to harness tourism, specifically Route 66 tourism, as a catalyst for economic development as well as historic district revitalization. So, I have created a condensed version of the classes developed for Mohave Community College this past spring. I should note that the college will again be offering these classes. They are scheduled to start in late October at the Bullhead City campus. I am currently scheduling these presentations for the fall tour as well.
As my new book, Murder & Mayhem on The Main Street of America: Tales From Bloody 66, is scheduled for release in early September, as a series of book signings are also a part of the October tour, an accompanying presentation is being developed. This won’t be suitable for the younger audience but I guarantee it will be of interest for anyone with a macabre sense of humor, or an interest in Route 66 history.
The last presentation is pure fun. It is also a bit educational for anyone with interest in becoming a writer, or for a school journalism class. In this presentation I chronicle my thirty year career as a writer. It is a darkly comedic adventure; an odd series of coincidences that led to an interview in Jay Leno’s Garage, a two year book project that went down in flames when the publisher went broke, and of course, the launch and development of Jim Hinckley’s America that started as a venue for promoting books, book signings and related presentations.
I am compensated for most presentations but there is no charge for those made at schools and similar venues. So, the tour, as well as the various facets of Jim Hinckley’s America – live streaming programs, podcast, videos, etc. – is dependent on support of the crowdfunding initiative on the Patreon platform, donations such as the one recently made by the German Route 66 Associations and advertising sponsors such as Blue Swallow Motel, Roadrunner Lodge and Uranus Fudge Factory & General Store, and major sponsors, Grand Canyon Caverns & Inn and the City of Cuba.
If you would like to schedule a presentation for you community, organization, event or fund raiser, please drop me a note. As the schedule develops it will be added to our Facebook page, noted in the weekly newsletter, and on the Travel Center page.
On several occasions I have alluded to an old cowhand that I
worked with on a ranch along the Mimbres River in southern New Mexico. To say the very least, he had a very unique philosophy for life. As an example, he often referred to himself as “an optimistic pessimist” who started every day meditating on all of the things that could happen or go wrong. Then, according to him, when the day was done, he would be the only one smiling because it didn’t go as bad as he had envisioned.
Shamrock Texas is the location for the 2018 Route 66 International Festival.
Oddly enough, I have found that the old cowboys philosophy works quite well in regard to the New Years Day celebration. As the last day of the old year winds down, I pop the top on a cold bottle of beer, watch the sun sink in the west, and meditate about the new year from the perspective of the optimistic pessimist, but go light on the pessimism. I prefer to think of myself as a pragmatist or a realist.
The year that is coming to a close, 2017, was the best of times and the worst of times. I have little doubt that twelve months from now I will be looking back on 2018, and have the same thoughts. Today, however, we are looking toward the future, not into the past.